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University of Western Sydney hands out 11k iPads

All students and staff to fondle slabs in ‘blended learning’ plan

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Every new student at Australia’s University of Western Sydney (UWS) will be given an iPad next year.

Founded in 1989, UWS has six campuses spread across Western Sydney, a sprawling region characterised as the working-class heart of the city, as opposed to the more affluent coastal suburbs. The university is probably not many new students’ first choice: the Sydney University, Macquarie University and the University of New South Wales are all older and – whether or not they are deserved - have weightier reputations.

That UWS announced the iPad giveaway on the day high school graduates in New South Wales learn of their tertiary entrance rank – the score that determines which university courses they will be accepted into – is therefore no coincidence.

Staff will also be given an iPad and will receive the same 16GB model with Retina screen and WiFi handed out to new students.

The reason for the handout is the University’s new “ Blended Learning Strategy to embrace emerging technologies and other modes of learning as a way to complement our face-to-face teaching.”

That strategy will see UWS offer “online lectures, library services and a suite of apps and tools currently in development (including live lecture streaming) which aim to provide [students] with the best possible learning and university experience.”

Just what’s on offer isn’t outlined in the UWS announcement of the fondleslab festival, but blended learning is said to involve “more flexible study options”. It also appears to require academic staff to upskill, with the University saying it “will work with staff and students to embed technology in the curriculum and we will provide staff with professional development opportunities to ensure they are equipped to make the most of the iPad in their teaching.”

WiFi access on the University’s six campuses will be free for those issued with an iPad, who will own the devices. Apple’s standard one-year warranty will apply, but after that students will be on their own.

Current students haven’t been forgotten – they’ll each score a $AUD50 voucher for textbooks. ®

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